Michael John Dunaway Lifestream

January 30, 2009

Thriller in Manila (review for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 10:18 am

thrillerinmanilla_filmstill11Talk about iconoclastic. The hagiography of Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali, is so overpowering in the annals of American sports history (indeed, in American history full stop) that any whiff of dissent is treated as blasphemous and is grounds for immediate disdain and shunning. If you don’t believe me, just criticize Ali at a dinner party and watch the sparks fly. I speak from multiple experiences. So it’s all the more audacious that John Dower chose to film a feature-length documentary on the legendary Ali-Frazier fight in Manila from Joe Frazier’s point of view, a point of view that is awfully convincing and casts the legendary Ali in a decidedly less than flattering light. (more…)

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Ma Bar (review for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 10:15 am

mabar_filmstill11It’s hard enough to leave a film audience wanting more when you’ve got 90-120 minutes to get their attention in a feature film, much less in the more limited span of a short. But if, in just three minutes, you can show enough of a story that the viewer can’t stop thinking about the “befores,” “afters,” and “concurrentlys,” you’ve really accomplished something. Such is the case with Ma Bar, a documentary short by a pair of Scots — rising star Adrian McDowell (nominated, among other things, for XFM Music Video of the Year) and hot newcomer Finlay Pretsell (shortlisted for the Grierson Best Newcomer award). In profiling 73 year old Scottish weightlifter Bill McFadyen, they make the audacious choice to jump straight in medias res, with no directorial narration or subtitling and no backstory. And there’s no “whatever happened to” at the end of the film either. All we get is the voice of McFadyen himself, speaking about his philosophy of competition, including the stunningly matter-of-fact “Losing I don’t tolerate,” which appears on the film’s poster. Beautifully shot black-and-white footage of the powerlifter in his home and at competition complete the piece. A week later, I’m still thinking about it. An impressive feat, indeed.

A Film From My Parish: Six Farms (review for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 10:13 am

afilmfrommyparish_filmstill4A Film From My Parish: Six Farms is over nearly before you finish reading the title, but what a fun ride it is. The seven-minute documentary exclusively uses stop-motion photography and animation (no video at all) to capture, condense, and illustrate director Tony Donoghue’s interviews with elderly farmers on six farms near his home. The film crackles with an almost manic nervous energy that is completely unexpected for a celebration of rural Irish life. Donoghue (the most entertaining and winning of all the directors I’ve met thus far) explained to me that he’d seen so many scenes of wind rippling through crops in the Irish countryside with harp music playing that he wanted to get as far away from that feel as possible (well, that was the gist of what he said — there were a few choice words peppered throughout). And what do you know, it really works — Donoghue’s old avant-garde filmmaking days serve him well. By the way, Donoghue is alo blogging about the Sundance experience here.

January 14, 2009

The Mahalia Jackson is reborn (article for Alarm Magazine)

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Music,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 3:53 pm

louis1Here’s the unabridged version of an article I wrote for Alarm magazine on the reopening of the Mahalia Jackson Theater at Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans. Published version here.

A symbolic act doesn’t actually change anything; it’s only a symbol, after all. But sometimes a symbolic act can change the way people see themselves, and change their understanding about what’s happening, and about what is to come. Wednesday night’s reopening of Louis Armstrong Park in the grandly restored Mahalia Jackson Theater was just such a moment. It was, as Mayor Ray Nagin told me afterwards, “awesomely, outstandingly, naturally New Orleans.”

The Mahalia Jackson Theater sits in the middle of Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans, which is also the home of Congo Square, where slaves used to gather and sing African songs, and the spot where jazz was eventually born. Both the park and the theater were casualties of Katrina flooding, and the wire that fenced them off has been a continual reminder ever since of the devastation that flooding brought. Many New Orleanians haven’t quite felt whole without the park open. (more…)

RIP: Stooges Guitarist Ron Asheton (1948-2009) (for Alarm Magazine)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Music,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 3:48 pm

stoogesMy tribute to Ron Asheton, published by Alarm magazine here.

RIP: Stooges Guitarist Ron Asheton (1948-2009)

Simply put, Ron Asheton paved the way for the Ramones and then for everyone after. No Ron means no Ramones or Clash or Sex Pistols, no REM or U2 or Sonic Youth, no Nirvana, no who knows what else.

Iggy was the face of The Stooges, but Ron was the sound, that loud, chunky, aggressive Fender Strat that just always sounded so dirty and surly and cocksure. You might not know Ron Asheton’s name as well as those of Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, or Les Paul, but Rolling Stone ranked him higher than any of them in their 100 greatest guitarists.

In terms of sheer influence, he ranks much higher. Just listen to “Dirt” from the Fun House album (Jack White called it the greatest rock album of all time, and Henry Rollins said that everyone should own a copy), and you’ll know what the fuss is about.

He wasn’t a saint (though he was the only member of the band without a heroin problem). He wasn’t even a nice guy. But man, did he embody that sound — the sound of the biggest revolution in rock history coming just a few years down the road. Rest in peace.

October 13, 2008

Another blast from the past…

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Music,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 11:18 am
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Another Pif magazine piece from the early 200s, this one a review of a Janis Joplin bio.janis-joplin-1969

Scars of Sweet Paradise
Biography by Alice Echols
reviewed by Michael Dunaway

The resurgence of women in rock in the mid-to-late ‘90s has brought with it a long overdue critical reappraisal of the career of Janis Joplin. Public and vocal homage paid by Joan Osborne, Meredith Brooks, and most vehemently by Melissa Etheridge (among others) have highlighted the work of the first, and some would say the only, real female rock god. Like great American vocalists before her – Sinatra and Billie Holiday in the jazz world, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline in country music – Janis gave voice to the heartbreak and loneliness lurking just below the surface in the lives of so many. And her vocal attack, an eclectic mix of the sound of the (mostly black) blues growlers with the sensibility of more traditional, folk, and bluegrass greats, shaped the sound of rock vocals for the decades that have followed, even – and especially – the male vocals. Janis is to harder rock vocals what Buddy Holly is to pop vocals (or what Huckleberry Finn is to American fiction, if you want a more literary example). Her short career was both groundbreaking and stunningly influential; that her life was so colorful and intense both clarifies and obscures the work as well as the woman. (more…)

October 9, 2008

Memory Lane

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD — michaeljohndunaway @ 1:04 am
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Today I have a little trip down Memory Lane for you. The article I wrote this week for Paste reminded me of another punk-themed article I had written some eight years ago for Pif magazine (in fact, I borrowed and revised a paragraph from it for the new article). I also tracked down a YouTube video of Hafacat here. It’s interesting reading something you wrote eight years ago; I think my skills of musical analysis have improved dramatically, and I KNOW my writing has improved. You can find the original article in its published form here, but here is the text:

Anarchy in Small Town Washington
by Michael Dunaway

Life in Seattle after the grunge rush is an interesting affair. Pearl Jam is out there, somewhere, still making music (we think), and of course St. Kurt still gets props on everyone’s desert island disc list, but the rise of rap-rock and the resurgence of the boy and girl bands’ bubblegum sound has rendered all that long hair, stubble, distortion pedals, and mumbled lyrics rather quaint. Even the thrift stores have stopped selling flannel.

(more…)

October 8, 2008

My Night as Simon Cowell (for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 1:45 am
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(more…)

October 6, 2008

Eighties Atlanta Punk Lives Again (for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 2:52 am
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Unabridged version of an article I wrote for Paste…see the published version here.

Eighties Atlanta Punk Lives Again at the Masquerade Saturday Night
By Michael Dunaway

Full disclosure — I am not the city’s leading expert in the ways of punk. I had discovered punk as early as seventh grade (about the time the Eighties began), first through new wave bands like Blondie and Devo, then later through a local Macon band called Vex. From that point my friends and I, high schoolers now, moved on to shows by local Atlanta and Athens bands, and then to records by more established national bands — Black Flag, Social Distortion, The Ramones, Dead Kennedys. But punk was then, and remains now, only a tile in my mosaic of musical experience — though I’ve since discovered the joys of the Sex Pistols, Husker Du, and The Stooges, I’ve discovered many other genres as well, and in my iTunes you’ll find Social Distortion nestled comfortably between Snow Patrol and Sonny Rollins.

Still, I have the greatest of memories of coming up to Atlanta to play with the big punk boys. The Metroplex and 688 were, for my friends and me, the ports of entry to a half-mythical land much edgier and cooler than anything we could find in Macon. In Macon, even the local punk shows had their share of jocks and preps in the audience; it was more of a cool “Look Ma, I’m rebelling” scene than the truly revolutionary world we saw in films like Suburbia and Decline of Western Civilization. But the Atlanta punk scene was the real deal – true punk music and true punk attitude, complete with all the piercings, Mohawks, dyed hair, slam-dancing, and stage stunts that really did seem exciting and dangerous back in the early eighties.

Saturday night’s Atlanta Eighties Punk Reunion at the Masquerade brought it all back. (more…)

October 3, 2008

Passion, Music, Life

Filed under: Entertainment,Music,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 1:33 am
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Wow, wow, and wow.

Last week Gates and I met our dear friends the Burgins in Nashville to see The Swell Season (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who won an Academy Award for the gorgeous song “Falling Slowly” from the perfect little film Once) perform at The Ryman Auditorium.  The Ryman is one of the great music venues in the entire country.  And this was one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.

The passion in the music is overpowering.  Glen Hansard sells out to every song like his very life depends on it.  I kept looking up at him and thinking, “THIS is how we should all be living our lives!”  At one point in the show, he did a solo version of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks,” just him and his guitar.  It was probably my favorite solo musical moment of all time.

Now, no video clip will ever do it justice.  This is the epitome of the “you had to be there” moment.  So my most desperate plea to all of you is to go see The Swell Season in person as soon as possible.  But to give some idea of the way Hansard performs, here’s a Youtube page with his Coachella performance of the same song.  Turn those speakers up loud, and expand the picture to full screen.

And GO SEE THIS BAND.

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